In the business of boarding schools, results matter. Most boarding schools compete for rankings that distinguish their offerings and grab the attention of parents of potential students. At The Piney Woods School, 20 miles south of Jackson, Miss., striving for results is the rule, but the results themselves are exceptional.

The proof is in the numbers: the 2010 graduating class was recruited by several colleges and universities, including the University of Maryland, Morehouse College, UCLA, Delaware State and Vassar. At graduation, $2.6 million in scholarships were awarded to the 50 graduates.

Do the math. That averages to $52,000 for every graduate of The Piney Woods School who enrolled at college.

“We work to prepare our students for a life of exceptional leadership and service anywhere in the world, which begins with preparation for college,” said Dr. Reginald Nichols, school president. “We teach decision-making, responsibility and engaging academics. Our students hold jobs, participate in the arts, sports and service. We develop confidence and self-esteem and graduate students who are valued by colleges and universities.”

Getting students prepared for college and geared to be successful in academia and life is a legacy built over more than 100 years at The Piney Woods School, the oldest continuously operating historically Black boarding school in the country. It’s a recipe that those interested in results-based education would do well to emulate.

The 2,000-acre wooded campus is situated right outside the state capital. Every morning the 200-plus young men and women in grades 9 to12 get going early, doing much more than academics. They hold jobs that can include upkeep and maintenance of the property and buildings, work at the school farm, staffing the school radio station, or working alongside one of the faculty, staff, or administrative mentors.

They perform community service–and are required to fill 450 hours before the end of the school year

In the classroom they are responsible for mastering the challenging college preparatory curriculum and also some basic life skills courses in personal financial management, leadership development, decision-making, career development, public speaking and critical thinking. It’s a carefully crafted academic plan designed to help each student reach their academic potential as well as tackle important local, national and global issues.

“Here, we address the whole individual, from the academic needs to the social needs, and their moral responsibility to look beyond themselves and make this world a better place,” said Nichols. “We’re all about results, but on a very deep, personal level for each student.”

While The Piney Woods School prepares their students for the bigger world, the world also comes to the school. Over the last several years, the school has garnered the attention and support of Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Charles Shultz, former Ambassador Andrew Young and Denzel Washington. Wynton Marsalis performed at the campus. The 60 Minutes news show did two features about the school, calling it “an academic oasis.”

“At The Piney Woods School we invest in human capital, and it’s clear that is valued by the world at large,” says Maj. Gen. Walter Arnold, chairman of the school’s board of directors. “That’s why we have colleges come here recruiting our students with scholarships. That’s why we have public figures come here to meet with our students and provide support.”

That combination of support and expectation is a winning one when it comes to motivating a teenager, he said. “They may come to us indifferent or unmotivated, but when they graduate, they are confident, skilled and high achieving.”

Often, that transformation begins with the individual attention each student receives from faculty. Professor Rose Collins has been teaching English at The Piney Woods School for seven years, a job she took on after retiring from the public school classroom. “I had heard about the school all my life, so I was truly excited about being a teacher here,” she said.

Over the last seven years, she has seen the difference the school makes to those students who think high school and college are either a waste of time or beyond their ability.

Rest assured, the school is not about hand-holding. Those who have a record for troublemaking or delinquency need not apply. Applications are carefully considered, and once a student is accepted, objectives, rules and responsibilities are clearly and consistently communicated. Help is prov1ided, both financial and academic, but the ultimate responsibility is with the student.

“It’s not good enough to strive for an ‘A’ in a class,” said Nichols. “Our students learn to be compelled to help, to think, to lead, to serve, to make this world a better place.”

The Piney Woods School is a co-educational international boarding school for grades 9-12 in Piney Woods, Miss., and is ranked as one of the nation’s Top Ten Boarding Schools by U.S. News and World Report. For more information, please call 601-845-2214 or go online to